{Vegetarian} Black Bean Soup

Sunday I went to the grocery store for the first time since Jesse left for this go-around in China. For some reason this trip has really thrown me through a loop and I needed to get back into a groove and in order to do that I needed groceries.

Unfortunately I went to the store hungry, craving a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, and without a plan. I got my latte…. and an assortment of random what-the-heck-will-I-do-with-that groceries. Lots of snack things made there way to my cart. Like hummus, tortilla chips, and Snyders Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzels. A few real ingredients did made the cut. One such ingredient was a bag of dry black beans.

I love, love, love black beans. By themselves, in a burrito, on top of rice, as a pasta sauce, in a quesadilla – you get the picture. So I go through a lot of cans of beans. But for some reason I usually shy away from the dry ones. I think it’s because black beans are typically a part of a quick dinner, and dry beans are not quick. This weekend, however, I needed a small kitchen project to get me back into the groove.

Black bean soup sounded perfect and using the bag of beans I bought and other things I already had in my kitchen, I was able to get a soup going. It wasn’t as big of a kitchen project as I probably needed, but the apartment sure did smell delicious all day. Hands on time for this soup is just about 15 minutes. The rest of the time is hand off simmering. Oh and as an added bonus this soup can be vegetarian (even vegan) just by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth (and obviously not topping with sour cream or cheese if you’re shooting for vegan)! It was my plan to make it vegetarian today until I realized I only bought chicken broth. That’s what happens when you shop with out a real plan…

{Vegetarian} Black Bean Soup

1 cup Onion, chopped (1 medium or a little more than half a large onion)
1/2 cup Shredded Carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Dry Parsley
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp Tomato Sauce
1 lb bag Dry Black Beans, rinsed and sorted
1 32 oz carton Reduced Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 cup (or more) Water

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the seasonings, bay leaves, and tomato sauce, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the black beans and liquid and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low then simmer covered for 1 hour and uncovered for at least 1 more hour, until beans are soft. If the liquid starts to go below the level of the beans just add a little water (unless you want a thicker bean soup).

Serve with sour cream and cheese, if desired.

Heavily adapted from the back of the Safeway Brand Black Beans

Split Pea Soup

Split Pea soup is ugly. No way around it. It looks like a bowl full of green mush and the occasional chunks of ham/bacon or carrots really don’t help it’s visual appeal. That’s probably why growing up I thought I hated it. I can remember my mom making it at home or ordering it at restaurant and thinking that it had to be the grossest food ever. Something that looks like…. that, can’t be good. Well folks, I’m here to tell you, I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Split Pea soup is delicious, filling, warm, cozy, and everything else you want in a good fall meal.

To some people, this particular recipe may appear to be missing an important ingredient, ham hock. I can assure you that even without the ham hock this soup is great. The bacon helps to add some of that familiar flavor but helps save you a few grams of fat/calories (when was the last time you thought of bacon as a calorie saver?).

The only other important note for this recipe is to remember to account for the time needed to fully soften/cook the split peas. A lot of soups can be prepared and eaten right away but this recipe requires at least 30 minutes to cook the peas.

Split Pea Soup

6 slices center cut bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups dry split peas, rinsed
1 32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
Water, as needed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Cubed ham (optional)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, drain on paper towels and set aside. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pot.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until vegetables become soft. Add the split peas, broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Add more water as needed to completely cover the peas. Bring to a boil then add half of the bacon back to the pot. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer until peas are soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and transfer the soup in batches to a food processor or blender and puree to desired consistency. If you have an immersion blender, you can do the pureeing in the pot.

Crumble the reserved bacon over each serving of soup. I recommend serving with a grilled cheese sandwich, smoked Gouda cheese really compliments this soup!

Source: The Ski House Cookbook